Private Equity's Grip on Emergency Departments Under Senate Scrutiny

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Apollo Global Management, Blackstone Group, and KKR. The committee has received reports of concerns from emergency department physicians regarding patient safety and care due to aggressive practices by these firms, including improper billing, retaliation, and anti-competitive activities. The firms have been requested to provide documents and information by April 17 and arrange a meeting with the committee by May 3.

The Homeland Security Committee's inquiry is the second Senate investigation into the impact of private equity on patient care. In December, the Budget Committee initiated an investigation into two hospital systems associated with private-equity firms, examining their profits and potential harm to patients and clinicians. The new letters from the Homeland Security Committee also went to four companies backed by the private-equity firms, including hospital staffing companies and LifePoint Health, which operates a chain of rural hospitals.

Private-equity firms have invested heavily in the healthcare industry, including hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency department staffing companies. They typically finance their acquisitions with debt and then reduce company costs to increase earnings. The Senate inquiry focuses on these cost-saving practices and their potential impact on patient safety and care. Senator Peters expressed concern that these measures may compromise emergency preparedness.

Academic studies have linked private-equity involvement in healthcare to increased costs for patients and payers, as well as lower quality of care. A study last year found that patients at private equity-owned hospitals experienced higher rates of falls and infections. The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating private-equity firms' healthcare deals for potential anti-competitive activities.

Mitchell Li, an emergency physician interviewed by the Homeland Security Committee, emphasized the importance of emergency departments as an indicator of the overall healthcare system's health. He expressed concern that the corporate practice of medicine, including private equity involvement, could jeopardize the nation's ability to respond to disasters.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09